RALEIGH – So much for this being a trap game. North Carolina showed no signs of looking ahead to next weekends ACC title game, dominating rival North Carolina State, 45-34, the eleventh win in a row for UNC.
The Tar Heels (11-1, 8-0) wasted little time making even the most faithful fan lose interest. North Carolina used a barrage of big plays to build a 35-7 first-quarter lead, matching the final score from a year ago in Chapel Hill when NCSU (7-5, 3-5) whipped up on the Heels. This time around Carolina were the aggressors, scoring on five consecutive drives.
“We ran the ball,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “Our offensive line was dominant up front when we ran the ball. I thought our guys on the perimeter also did well, especially with our two backs at the second level who did a tremendous job and made a lot of big plays.”
The Heels racked up 308 yards of total offense in the first 15 minutes, getting two scoring runs from T.J. Logan, one from Elijah Hood (set up by an interception by Andre Smith) and two scores through the air. The first TD strike came on the opening drive when backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky hit Quinshad Davis for a 5-yard score, the second, a 53-yard bomb from Marquise Williams to Mack Hollins.
Logan (2 carries for 82 yards in first quarter), did most of the damage, covering 42 and 40 yards on his two scoring runs. Hood also had a long run of 39-yards to set up the first score.
In the process, UNC had zero penalties, and Williams (19-30, 174, 1TD) passed Darian Durant as the school’s all-time leader in total offense. The Heels finally slowed down in the second quarter, turning the ball over on their only drive, leading to the second score of the day for the Wolfpack, a 16-yard pass from Jacoby Brissett to tight end Grinnage, making the score 35-14 in favor of the Heels at intermission.
A turnover (fumble by Hood) and a drop of what would have been a sure touchdown by Mack Hollins kept the Heels off the board in the third quarter. NCSU got three out of the turnover, closing the gap to 35-15.
Any points Carolina left on the field to end the first half and to start the second, left the door wide open for the Pack, who went on a 9-play, 97-yard scoring drive on their second drive of the third, making it 35-23 in favor of UNC after a 4-yard run by Brissett. The Heels got back rolling, countering with a short TD run from Hood, pushing the score to 42-23 with 14:29 remaining in the game.
A UNC field goal, and a field goal and late touchdown from the Pack (Brissett to Grinnage again) rounded out the scorig for the evening.
NCSU pulled to within seven (14-7) in the first quarter on a 4-yard run by Brissett, but the Heels ripped off 21 unanswered to close out the opening quarter. State actually owned the second and third quarter, as UNC went scoreless until the fourth.
“I’m proud of our football team,” Fedora said. “They’ve done something that’s never been done at the University of North Carolina, they won 11 straight. The seniors are leaving a tremendous legacy.”
Just like at Virginia Tech last weekend, it was the defense that came through in the clutch after the offense slow down after the early explosion. Twice the offense put the ball on the ground in Wolfpack territory, but each time the defense held NCSU to a field goal.
“Two things we stress are redzone and third down,” UNC linebacker Shakeel Rashad said. “We are happy about what we were able to do on some of those drives in the redzone.”
For the second consecutive week, the Heels can check off one of their team goals. Last week they locked up the Coastal title. Against the Wolfpack, they became state champs after beating conference foes Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina State, and for good measure, North Carolina A&T.
“That’s pretty cool,” Fedora said. “Those were the two goals we set back on January 6. Those were the two. And to see all of their hard work pay off throughout the entire year, to reach their goals, that’s my dream. I want all of our players and staff to reach their dreams and goals. If we do that then things are going to be pretty good for us.”
Game changer: The Heels exploded out the gates for 35 first-quarter points. That hole was too much for NCSU to dig itself out of.
“First quarter, I take ownership for,” NCSU coach Dave Doeren said. “We weren’t ready for whatever reason. They (UNC) played really well. The first quarter put us in a difficult position to come back and win.”
Stick with it: Running the football. Earlier this week, Fedora commented on the Tar Heels commitment to the run. They proved that to be true against the Pack, picking up 383 yards on the ground, led by Hood (21-220) and Logan (6-100).
“I think it puts a lot of stress on defenses,” Hood said. “T.J. has the slashing, quick style and has a great burst. He gets those explosive plays. And then you come out with me and I am a bruiser kind of, I like to pound the rock and run at them.”
Numbers don’t lie:
553 – Total offense for the Tar Heels, their fourth game this season with 500 yards or more.
7.7 – Per play average for the Heels.
4 – Sacks by the UNC defense.
Elijah Hood, UNC – The Charlotte native rushed for 220 yards, his highest rushing total of the year. He also finished with two scores.
Shakeel Rashad, UNC – The senior linebacker finished the day with a game-high 13 tackles, seven solo.
Jacoby Brissett, NCSU – The senior signal caller for the Wolfpack finished with 145 yards on two scores on the ground, and another 206 and two more scores in the air.
What’s next? – The Tar Heels will make the short trip to Charlotte to play Clemson in the ACC title game. It will be the first title game appearance for the Tar Heels. North Carolina State will have to wait to hear its bowl destination.
“That’s a good football team,” Williams said about Clemson. “They aren’t the No. 1 team in the country for nothing.”
Quote of the day – “I think we fixed it. We definitely fixed the way we felt about it last year. We had 365 days to sit on our stomachs the way they beat us last year, so we finally got that chance to redeem ourselves and I think we did that today.” – Hood on if the Heels win erases the feeling from one year ago when the Pack defeated them 35-7.